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Beyond Egypt

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The defeat of the Muslim Brotherhood is a regional turning point. Mohammed Morsi’s election was widely hailed as the birth of a new era of Sunni Islamist-led democracies in the Arab world, bankrolled by Qatar, sympathetically covered by al-Jazeera, and supported by Washington, Ankara and the Gulf. It was not to be. The Morsi presidency now looks to have been a turbulent and highly contested segue between two eras of military rule. Qatar, which invested heavily in the Brothers, has lost a major ally. (The Saudis, who supported the more extreme Salafis against the Brothers, played their hand much better: the Salafis sided with the army and are likely to have a say in the transition.) Hamas, which reshuffled its regional alliances when its parent organisation came to power in Egypt, leaving its offices in Damascus for Doha, must be weighing its options. Bashar Assad is already gloating. Morsi was a passionate champion of the Syrian insurgency; only two weeks before his overthrow, he infuriated Assad (and, more fatefully, Egypt’s secular-minded generals) by appearing at a rally where one cleric after another called for jihad against the regime in Damascus. In an interview with the official Thawra newspaper, Assad said: ‘The summary of what is happening in Egypt is the fall of what is called political Islam.’ That autopsy might have come as news to his Islamist allies in Tehran and in Hizbullah, without whom he could not have defeated the rebels in Qusayr. Still, the Sunni trend in Islamism has suffered a serious blow in Cairo, and its effects are likely to be far-reaching.

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